Syracuse Dominant in 36-Point Season-Opening Win over North Dakota
By A.J. Fabbri
CitrusTV Women’s Basketball Beat Reporter
Syracuse, NY– It took one quarter, but No. 18 Syracuse (1-0, 0-0 Atlantic Coast) eventually caught fire in the Carrier Dome en route to an 85-49 season-opening victory over the North Dakota (0-1, 0-0 Summit) on Tuesday afternoon. While SU poured on 85 points, it was the defense that led to the victory.
The Orange looked rusty early on as the Fighting Hawks dissected the 2-3 zone with ease, scoring on each of their first three possessions. Tied at 18 after the first frame, junior point guard Tiana Mangakahia said there was no sense of panic.
“We just looked at each other and told each other that we need to push the ball and do what we do well.”
In response, SU head coach Quentin Hillsman’s turned to a full-court trap, which blanketed North Dakota. After a Miranda Drummond three-pointer, SU turned its press loose. The Orange forced eight North Dakota turnovers in the second quarter, which helped build a 41-30 lead.
“We had to pressure them to be able to speed the game up and not just run our half-court offense,” Hillsman said. We didn’t do a good job early of making shots and getting into our pressure. But once we got our press established we were able to make some shots and speed the game up, I think that was the difference in the game.”
Syracuse dominated throughout the entire second half. A 19-0 third quarter run in which six different SU players scored put the game out of reach. SU outscored the Fighting Hawks 44-19 in the second half.
Coach Hillsman has plenty of weapons at his disposal for this 2018-2019 campaign. Ten SU players logged double-digit minutes in the contest. The depth will allow his playmakers to maintain fresher legs as the season wares on.
“They’ll have to share minutes this year,” Hillsman said. “And to their credit, and to everything we’ve done through this preseason, they really bought into us having a deep team and being able to play multiple players at multiple positions.”
Newcomers Kiara Lewis, a transfer from Ohio State, and freshman Emily Engstler led all scorers with 13 points each, while Drummond and Mangakahia both added 11 apiece. Mangakahia also led the team with seven rebounds, adding three assists and four steals. Eleven different players scored for SU.
The win serves as a small tune-up for an massive matchup this weekend. On Saturday, the Orange travel to Eugene, Oregon, for a top-25 showdown with No. 3 Oregon. The Ducks are the favorite to come out of the Pac-12, and are favored to earn a spot in the Final Four this March.
“It can’t get much tougher than [Oregon]. We’re excited for the opportunity. We’re looking forward to going there and playing well.”